Newton… uh… ‘lives’

Birruva discussion kicking off again about (ancient history but way ahead-of-its-time) Newton vs. (WinXP with a pen screen) Tablet PC. It seems to have started when Robert Scoble wrote:

By putting ink into a real OS and not just a Palm device, Microsoft has brought us something dramatically new. Apple never had that vision with the Newton.

…which is unfortunate, since that was exactly what Newton was. It was a ‘real OS’ by any metric I can think of, and also something dramatically new. Arguably far more so than any retrofit of a desktop OS, in that it directly addressed the specific problems of what one actually wants in a handheld. As a result – and as I’ve posted here before – Newton can today do a whole raft of stuff that’s beyond any other handheld. While Psion’s stuff runs it close, you have to remember that there’s five years’ more development in those things.

The other thing Scoble misses is that there really were A4-size tablet Newtons. Sure, they were prototype units that were never sold commercially, and I have to wonder how the hardware of the day coped with the demands. Then again, I wonder what ‘Newton’ was really like – what we got was ‘Newton Jnr,’ a cut-down hack to ship the bloody thing.

However, I can’t get too uppity for two reasons. First, it’s not clear to me that handheld and slate computing in the manner of Newton is strictly comparable to ‘Tablet PC’ ideas, in that they’re really addressing different sorts of use. Second, Apple poured a heap of money into Newton and pretty much lost the lot. It’s not clear to me that Microsoft’s luck will be any better this time round.

Mind you, a Tablet PC would be fan-stuffin’-tastic for playing Neverwinter Nights.

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